Professor Monty Jones, Chair of the Global Forum on Agriculture Research (GFAR), recently spoke to Voice of America about his expectations for the Second Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD2), a GFAR-organized conference that he is chairing.
We now hear from Mark Holderness, Executive Secretary of the GFAR Secretariat, and Frank Rijsberman, CEO of the CGIAR Consortium, co-sponsor of the event.
More than 600 people will come together in Uruguay to take part in GCARD2, the second such event GFAR is convening, what can they expect?
Mark: GCARD is more than a conference; it is also a process that was set in motion through the first GCARD Conference in Montpellier in 2010. By bringing together perspectives from around the world and from all sectors, we developed a common commitment to reshaping and strengthening systems of agricultural research, extension, education and enterprise, to enable them to play their required roles in ensuring sustainable food and nutritional security and delivering the scale of developmental change required in the lives of the rural poor around the world. This was set out in the form of the GCARD RoadMap, and it is now time to check our progress. During GCARD2, we will see how we can best move from these commitments to actions that impact smallholder lives and livelihoods. To help us do this, the Conference is developed around three main themes of the GCARD Roadmap: improving foresight, strengthening partnership and developing capacities. Nineteen parallel sessions will give participants the space to discuss and commit to action in a range of key areas.
What does CGIAR expect from GCARD2?
Frank: The overall focus and direction of the new CGIAR is described in the CGIAR Strategy and Results Framework (SRF), approved by the CGIAR Funders Forum in 2011. The CGIAR Consortium is implementing the SRF through a new portfolio of 16 CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs), launched at Rio+20 in June of this year.
We have developed an Action Plan to negotiate and agree more concrete development outcomes for both the SRF and the CRPs, so that CGIAR investors and partners can hold us accountable for our performance, and we can demonstrate the value for money of our work. At GCARD2, we expect to get feedback from our partners and stakeholders on this SRF Action Plan, as well as on the progress we are making to develop the portfolio of CRPs.
Feeding the world without wrecking the planet is still the greatest challenge facing humanity in coming decades, and we want to use GCARD2 to make sure that agricultural research and development are ready to take on that challenge.
Organizing a conference with many stakeholders is a challenge, but it must also be a challenge to make it result-oriented. What concrete outcomes do you expect from GCARD2?
Mark: We need to deliver on our commitment of GCARD2 being more than a conference. The nineteen parallel sessions will each look at specific themes and the practical actions that different organizations have taken in each area. But perhaps more importantly, the organizations will also set out what they intend to do next and how this aligns with the work of others to turn new agricultural knowledge into impacts on the ground. For example, we will be exploring the practical steps and partnerships required to ensure that we can generate the new knowledge and technologies required for greater productivity, and to better meet household nutrition needs, and also make sure that these are available and accessible to smallholders. Or that we can generate the scale of international collective actions required to meet the enormous challenges posed by climate change. Or that smallholder farmers are able to grow their incomes through equitable access to markets.
Of course, to do so we also have to ensure that the required capacities and investments are generated at all levels and include new ways of working between public, private and civil sectors to deliver practical change on the ground. We also need to address the social context for smallholders: create viable agricultural careers opportunities to attract the youth, enable women’s access to innovation products and services, and examine how agricultural knowledge can better help agricultural communities devastated by protracted crises to rebuild their livelihoods.
Nothing is imposed. What we are doing is bringing together people’s own commitments and shared objectives to create vital next steps towards impacts at the scale required of agriculture in development.
In what way will CGIAR contribute to these outcomes?
Frank: Innovations will only get into farmer’s hands and people’s stomachs through effective partnerships. GCARD is the platform where CGIAR meets its partners. These partners include public Institutions, mainly national research institutions; NGOs, including farmer organizations; private partners, such as small agribusiness in developing countries; and donors.
A tangible example is the new partnership being developed between CGIAR and the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP).
Under the leadership of the African Union more than 20 African countries have developed national investment plans to revitalize agriculture. It is critically important that CAADP and CGIAR align priorities and activities in the CAADP national investment strategies with the CGIAR Research Programs. CGIAR needs to take the CAADP priorities into account to shape its research agenda and it needs to partner with the CAADP process to ensure that CGIAR innovations are taken up by farmers in the CAADP countries.
At GCARD2, we will also have space to explore similar alignments for the Latin America region.
The new CGIAR recognizes that development impact can only be achieved through close partnerships, and not by CGIAR alone. We agree that CGIAR should be held responsible for creating effective partnerships – and we are committed to listen to our partners, more than ever before. To get clear feedback on what our partners and stakeholders think of us, we are launching a CGIAR Stakeholder Perception Survey at GCARD2. We intend to use that as a baseline against which to measure our progress on developing effective partnerships.
What is innovative about this conference?
Mark: Inclusion is definitely one of the things we have worked on. We want to ensure that GCARD2 will be more than a conference physically attended by over 600 people. We will webcast all the plenary sessions and make them ‘sociable’ by inviting external audiences to participate actively. Inclusion and advocacy are important, but we want to go a step further. So we have a group of more than 25 young professionals in agriculture from all over the world being trained in social media tools. We are empowering the youth to have a more active, independent voice. Many more social reporters will be engaged to report from GCARD2, enabling stories of each day’s events to travel all around the world, either in real time or almost as soon as each event has happened.
What will have to happen for you to describe GCARD2 as very successful?
Frank: The CGIAR Research Programs will have had the time and space to build trust with their partners, and agree on common purposes and mutual commitments to development outcomes. We will also have received solid feedback on our action plan to update the CGIAR Strategy and Results Framework (SRF) – our plan to agree on concrete development outcomes that drive publicly funded agricultural research and development to secure a food secure future.
Mark: At the end of GCARD2, we will have committed to real actions, forged new partnerships and strengthened existing ones, and agreed on practical collective actions over the next two years in a number of key areas identified in the GCARD Roadmap, such as through a Global Foresight Hub bringing together our diverse analyses of future needs, so that research can be better targeted to meet these needs; and the the Gender in Agriculture Partnership, a movement for change across all sectors that puts women farmers at the center of thinking, rather than at the periphery as is now the case. Moreover, we are creating practical mechanisms to generate renewed interest in agriculture among young people and create the capacities required of agriculture today and for tomorrow. What we want to see is renewed commitment to practical actions for the transformation and strengthening of AR4D systems at national, regional and international levels.